Mental Health

Surviving the holidays

Meena Azzollini
February 26, 2024
min read
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The end of the year is a time of both joy and stress for most employees, marking not only the busiest time of the year but also a period of high expenses.

Besides financial pressures associated with the festivities, employees are scrambling to complete projects and meet end-of-the-year deadlines, often working longer hours, as they struggle to maintain an optimum work-life balance, which contributes to their stress.

The added factors of gift giving, overseeing tasks at home, managing expectations around social gatherings, and preparing to meet people can also trigger anxiety and mental health problems.

For employees who have experienced loss, the festivities are not a reason for celebration and can trigger grief and depression, while for others it can amplify feelings of loneliness and isolation when there are no close family members or social connections to celebrate with.

This time of the year also marks the emergence of “the Christmas Crawl” in nearly 60% of employees who experience an increase in burnout from all the extra work and stress around the holidays.

Mental health during the holidays.

Mental wellbeing worsens during the holiday period and is associated with an increase in depression during the festive season. Approximately 1 in 5 Australians experience stress because of the festivities, and if ignored, this stress can lead to depression and other health issues.

Some data reported by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows a trend of higher suicide towards the end of the year, with one Australian study showing higher suicide rates in December and January, likely associated with mental stress, depression, and financial pressures.

According to findings, the general mood of some people worsens during the Christmas period with an increase in unhappiness, discontent, and irritability. Holiday stress also exacerbates the pre-existing mental health conditions in certain individuals.

How to support employees during the holiday season.

Supporting employees during this busy period is crucial for their health and wellbeing and in creating a supportive workplace environment.

According to initial research by the University of New South Wales (UNSW), employee perception of wellbeing at work, such as how much support managers give employees, plays a significant role in giving them work-life balance and appreciation for the workplace.

Here are a few strategies to support staff during this time of the year and help foster a positive holiday season in the workplace:

1. Flexible arrangements

Offer flexibility in work schedules and commitments, which can help staff manage their responsibilities and reduce stress. Some employees may also have personal commitments and may require flexible work arrangements or remote working options. Being flexible can help workers maintain a healthy work-life balance.

2. Clear and open communication

Have open and clear conversations with your employees about deadlines, responsibilities and workloads, and ensure they feel comfortable having discussions with you about their challenges.

3. Manage expectations

With clear expectations and deadlines, employees are in a better position to manage their work without feeling pressured. It’s important to be flexible and understanding about any changes or adjustments that employees may make to accommodate responsibilities and commitments at work or at home.

4. Recognise employee achievements

Everyone likes to be appreciated. Recognising the efforts of your employees and thanking them for it goes a long way in improving their morale and happiness, which helps reduce stress and anxiety around this busy period.

5. Provide stress reduction resources

You can help your staff reduce stress by sharing helpful and actionable resources for stress relief and self-care, especially during this time of the year. Offer mental health support programs or workshops, downloadable resources and posters, or check-in regularly with workers to help them manage their mental wellbeing.

Foster mental wellbeing in your workplace this season!

Without your help and support, employee stress and anxiety can skyrocket, affecting not only their health but also productivity and morale in the workplace.

With Health at Work resources and programs — designed to support employee mental health, you can foster a culture of care and ensure your employees are healthy and feel valued even when the end of the year is near!

Surviving the holidays
Meena Azzollini